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The Buttoned Sky   By:

The Buttoned Sky by Geoff St. Reynard

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By Geoff St. Reynard

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy August 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Legends spoke of Earth's glorious past, of freedom and greatness. But this was the future, ruled by god globes, as men gazed fearfully at THE BUTTONED SKY


The squire he sat in Dolfya Town, He swilled the blood dark wine: "O who can blight my happiness, Or face the power that's mine?"

Then up there spoke his daughter fair: "The priest can end your joy; The globe can sap your might away, And the Mink can you destroy!"

Ruck's Ballad of the Mink

The day that Revel killed a god, he woke early. There was a bitter taste in his mouth, and a pain in his ear where somebody'd hit him during a shebeen brawl the night before. He rolled over on his back. The bed was a hollowed place in the earth floor, filled with leaves and dried grass and spread with yellow brown mink skins sewn into a big blanket; he'd slept on it every night of his twenty eight years, but this morning it felt hard and uncomfortable.

The water gourd was empty. In the cold gray mists of dawn he groped his way sleepily to the well behind the hut, and drew up the bucket.

"Damn the gentry!" he burst out. The bucket, an ancient thing made of oak slats pegged together with wooden dowels, was half filled with dirt and rotten brush. "Curse their lousy carcasses to hell!" he yelled, and, suddenly scared, looked around to see if perhaps a god was floating somewhere near him. But no yellow glimmering showed in the mists.

Laboriously he cleaned out the well, dropping the bucket time after time and dragging up loads of trash. Some roving band of gentry had fouled the water for sport. Anything that hurt the ruck, made them more work or injured them in any way, was sport for the squirarchy.

At last he got a bucket of cold and almost clean water, filled the big gourd and carried it back to the one room hut. The morning that had begun badly was getting worse; his mother's limp was painful to see; she must have had a hard night. Bent and gray and as juiceless as the grass of their beds, she slept more lightly and fretfully with every passing month. Many years before a squire had ridden her down in the lanes of Dolfya Town, as she scurried out of the path of his great stallion, and her broken leg had mended crookedly. A few hours on the mink covered bed crippled her up so that moving was an agony.

With the impious brain at the center of his skull Revel had long before decided that he had a number of brains, one obedient, one rebellious, one dull, one keen and inquisitive, and so on with the impious brain he now cursed the gods and the gentry and the priests, and everyone above the ruck who preyed on them and made their lives so stinking awful. If he had thought then of killing a god, the idea would have seemed pleasant indeed. But quite impossible, of course, for a man of the ruck did not touch a god, much less slay one.

He did not think of such a thing, but cursed the gods briefly and then turned off his impious brain and began to wolf down his food. He paid no attention to what he ate it was the same old bread of wild barley seeds, the same old boiled rabbit.

When he finished, he glanced at his mother, feeling sorry for her, wishing that she would go to the shebeens with him and have at least a little happiness before she died. He wondered if she had ever known any joy, any hope such as he had in drunken flashes now and then of belief that life might some day be better for the ruck. He shook his head, grabbed his miner's pick, booted his brother in the ribs to waken him, and left the miserable hut to walk to the mine for his day's work... Continue reading book >>

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